MARIGOT–The Territorial Council on Thursday adopted the 2018 budget of 188 million euros for operating and 88 million for investment. The vote passed easily by the majority with only two against the motion, notably Alain Richardson and Jules Charville from the Opposition bench.
In an invited comment, Richardson said the budget was “unrealistic and insincere” adding it risks scrutiny from the Contrôle de Legalité.
The Collectivité presented its Plan Pluriannual d’Investissements (multi-annual investment plan) for reconstruction of the territory in Paris of which 101,049,000 euros is for buildings and infrastructure, 41,380,000 for networks (electricity, digital, public lighting, video protection), 33,460,000 for potable water, distribution, drainage works, and 12,392,000 for health (hospital and senior citizens home).
The State contributed 66.4 million euros towards financing the investment plan, including an exceptional aid of 21 million euros (15 million for reconstruction of schools and six million for social housing).
President Daniel Gibbs in his preamble said presenting the budget “is a key moment in the life of a local authority; a major political act of a majority, in the sense that it is a concrete, tangible, and quantifiable translation of its project and ambitions for its territory …
“I’m not hiding it from you. I wish I could have defended a different budget before you this morning,” he said. “A combative budget, a visionary, ambitious budget for my country, which our new majority intends to put back on the road to development. Because I do not forget the commitments made during the election campaign; my team and I were elected on a clear project, a clear method, a defined timetable …
“And yes, I hear the worries of some of you, the weariness of others, all these speeches of resignation, impatience, anger sometimes, the Grand Marigot project will never be done … the great projects have fallen into oblivion …; Gibbs must review his copy … I hear.
“But remember on September 6, 2017, the island was devastated by Hurricane Irma which upset our calendar. But if this disaster brought us to our knees, in no way did it undermine the enthusiasm and the determination of our majority to act for St. Martin.
“Yes, our major projects will materialise because they are vital to our community’s economic future and that’s because we have them in our sights all the time. We have established our tourism development plan for the next 10 years; studies are in progress for the elaboration of our economic development plan; in the field of urban planning, we are financing the studies of the Plan d’Aménagement et de Développement de St. Martin (PADSM) inscribed last April.
“We have launched the work for our tax reform, the conclusions of which will enable us, tomorrow, to free up the visibility and room for manoeuvre necessary to get these projects off the ground. So, I would have liked to present you with a combative budget this morning.
“But with 182 million euros in operation and 88 million euros in investments, it is above all a budget of responsibility that I am submitting for your consideration and your votes today.
“A budget totally devoted to the reconstruction of our territory, because it is time, high time, three months before the next hurricane season, to protect St. Martiners, to rehabilitate and bury our electrical networks, to guarantee our children a return to rebuilt schools, to repair our sport and leisure activity areas, to relaunch cooperation projects with our Dutch-side neighbours, and to create the necessary conditions for economic recovery.
“I’m like all St. Martiners today: I’ve waited long enough. Our administration made it a point of honour to work in close partnership with its various partners. I am not going to enter into controversy this morning, but the results are not up to the level of the committed sweat and hard work, nor the expectations of St. Martiners, nor the challenges that St. Martin now has to face.
“In the medium to long term, in order to rebuild St. Martin, it will be necessary to move forward in all directions to make optimal use of public credits and effectively attract private investors. But we cannot, decently, deprive some of us in the name of accounting considerations and drive others away in the name of inadequate regulation.
“With its limited means, our majority is therefore one step ahead: I will have the opportunity to explain to you during my intervention on the budget, the operation to make the most disadvantaged safe.
“The Collectivité has budgeted some five million euros for the rehabilitation of the homes of the most vulnerable St. Martiners on the island, the poor and the elderly.
“We are now going to do what we have always known how to do best in St. Martin: rely first and foremost on ourselves. Rely on our resources, mobilise the actors of our territory and all our good will, to take up this immense challenge: that of rebuilding our island. Together, we will achieve this.”